Daily schools update: Arizona school mask mandates receive presidential praise - AZEdNews
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Daily schools update: Arizona school mask mandates receive presidential praise

Phoenix International Academy Is Among Maricopa County Schools That Have Resumed In-person Classes With Masks, Social Distancing, Physical Barriers And Enhanced Sanitizing. Photo Courtesy Of U.S. Dept. Of Education

For updated coverage going forward click here.

Updated August 16, 2021: Following several Arizona school districts’ defiance of the Arizona Legislature’s ban on mask mandates in schools signed by Gov. Doug Ducey, President Joe Biden offered praise for doing the “right thing for the health and well-being of their students, teachers, and schools.”

Phoenix Union High School District in particular was praised for leading the charge in mandating masks for school campuses.

Today, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Randall Warner denied the temporary restraining order in Phoenix Union High School District teacher Douglas Hester’s lawsuit against the district’s mask policy noting that the law is not effective until Sept. 29, and that the law’s retroactivity clause is not an emergency clause and cannot be used to avoid the two-thirds vote requirement to make a law effective immediately.

In addition, Judge Warner denied Phoenix Union High School District’s motion to dismiss the case and granted Hester leave to file an amended complaint within 45 days once the law becomes effective.

Several Florida school districts have also mandated masks despite a similar statewide ban, although there have been threats from the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis to withhold salaries from superintendents and school board members should they require masks in schools.

“It is the position of the Governor’s office that the individuals who choose to violate the law should be held accountable for their decisions,” said Christina Pushaw, press secretary for Gov. DeSantis.

A lawsuit has been brought against the State of Arizona by education and children’s advocacy groups and several individuals over the law passed by the Arizona Legislature in the budget bills signed by Gov. Doug Ducey that prohibits school mask mandates.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona rose to 967,862 today up from yesterday’s 965,462 and 18,464 have died from the virus, said the Arizona Department of Health Services.

In Maricopa County, there are 610,724 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 123,403 in Pima County, 59,552 in Pinal County, 38,292 in Yuma County, 26,890 in Mohave County, 22,186 in Yavapai County, 19,204 in Coconino County, 17,774 in Navajo County, 12,663 in Cochise County, 12,067 in Apache County, 8,346 in Santa Cruz County, 7,644 in Gila County, 5,838 in Graham County, 2,628 in La Paz County and 651 in Greenlee County.

Arizona Dept. of Health Services Interactive Graphic: (Hover over counties and boxes for more info)


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Coronado Elementary School students dress up for Color Week.

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Creighton Elementary School District to hold free health screenings August 18.

Littleton Elementary School District aims to positively improve students’ behaviors in school.

Vail Unified School District teams up with homeschool students for fun games and new programs.

Sahuarita High School celebrates its Mustang Family.

Check the previous week’s health information in Flagstaff Unified School District.

Follow Yuma High School’s guidance on COVID-19 cases in schools.

Gilbert High School releases its weekly newsletter.

Updated August 12, 2021: “So what’s left to do? Masks. It’s a simple, straightforward answer,” said Dr. Sean Elliott, an infectious disease pediatrician in Tucson. “That’s how we can get through this pandemic, absolutely that’s what we need to do in a school setting.”

At a press conference this Wednesday, several Arizona health experts urged mask mandates and other preventative measures in schools to tame the increased spread of COVID-19, especially the new and more infectious delta variant.

Many hospitals are already seeing increased admissions among children for COVID-19. “Some with severe illness requiring admission to the hospital, sometimes to the ICU, as well as kids with common cold symptoms,” said Dr. Atsuko Koyama. She also stressed that many children and teens may have lasting symptoms.

“Masks are really most effective or, you can say, only effective if they’re universally applied,” said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.

Governor Doug Ducey’s ban on mask mandates goes into full effect this September. Many school districts have already defied the order and are requiring masks on campus.

Buckeye Elementary School District Bulldogs start their benchmark testing.

Arizona Conservatory for Arts and Academics students practice calisthenics.

Congrats to the Queen Creek Junior High School volleyball team for their win against Payne Junior High School!

Flagstaff Unified School District celebrates its first day of school.

Perry High School’s gym may be named after longtime principal.

Centennial Elementary School teachers and staff held a Space Jam pep assembly for students.

Tune in to Sahurarita Unified School District’s board meeting this evening.

Desert Willow Elementary School students learn about erosion in an outside classroom.

Check out Cartwright School District’s virtual STEM/STEAM programs!

Chandler-Gilbert Community College is still adding in-person classes.

Updated August 11, 2021: Wearing masks likely has little impact on children’s development of speech, social cues, empathy and emotion, researchers say.

Ashley Ruba, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Child Emotion Lab, found that children’s ability to guess and understand facial cues were more or less consistent both with and without masks.

While evidence doesn’t seem to support a gap in development, one professor says masking up is more important regardless.

“Balancing that with the risk of someone dying of the coronavirus — when all the evidence we have indicates that they will catch up and they will be OK — just doesn’t seem worth it to me.”

Speech pathologists have already been helping children by using clear masks.

“Our transition to the new normal of communicating with face masks was quick and smooth,” said pathologists Divya Swaminathan and Shoba Meera.

Amidst a growing number of schools requiring or strong suggesting wearing masks on campus, parents need not worry about social development affected by face coverings.

In-person learning is still crucial to children’s social and emotional well-being, the CDC said on August 5.

Gilbert Public Schools preschoolers see frogs after heavy rains.

Mesa high schoolers may qualify for free tuition to Mesa Community College.

Meet the new Desert Sage PTO Board!

The Basha High School band enjoys a beautiful night of practice.

Find out why student teachers can be crucial to everyone’s education, courtesy of Edutopia.

Deer Valley Unified School District students practice their geometry.

Queen Creek Unified School District GPA Aviators strengthen their English skills.

Sycamore Elementary unveils new playground for students.

Get ready for picture day in the Ajo Unified School District.

The Justine Spitalny School is still looking for boys’ and girls’ soccer coaches.

Updated August 10, 2021: Nearly 94,000 children have had confirmed cases of COVID-19 and make up 15% of all newly reported COVID-19 cases across the nation for the week ending August 5.

The City of Phoenix says COVID-19 testing is surging among school-age children.

Littleton Elementary School District in Avondale has quarantined 16 classrooms during the first 10 days of school and more than 400 students and staff are at home.

In the first five days of school, Scottsdale Unified School District has had 22 active COVID-19 cases, and 203 students quarantined and 280 students families called students in absent with COVID-like symptoms.

In response to the rise in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant and the inability of children under 12 years old to be vaccinated for COVID-19 yet, Flagstaff Unified School District’s Governing Board has joined several other school district across the state in requiring masks for all students, staff and campus visitors until Sept. 29.

Phoenix Union High School District Supt. Dr. Chad Gestson said “We’re worried about our children,” and said the the district will continue to require that students, staff and campus visitors wear mask indoors since all 32 schools within the district have high spread of COVID-1 currently.

The district was the first school district to defy the recent law prohibiting schools from mandating masks on campus. The legislation was part of the budget package and was signed by Gov. Doug Ducey.

See what students are learning in math class in Peoria Unified School District.

See how Mesa Public Schools career and technical education students are helping younger students.

The Arizona Educator Peer Support Program is there for teachers and school administrators to help them alleviate stress and more.

See how interdisciplinary experiential learning can help middle and high school students examine injustice.

See why Save Our Schools is working to rescind the flat tax that severely reduces education funding voters approved in the 2020 election.

Deer Valley Unified School District celebrated their students’ and teachers’ achievements this summer at their online academy Aspire.

Arizona Council on Economic Education suggests games that help students learn more about creating budgets and developing net worth.

Seeking a career that helps students every day? Take a look that these opportunities in Dysart Unified School District.

See one way, Arizona State University is trying to increase vaccination rates.

University of Arizona also urges students to get vaccinated and wear masks indoors to help slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus.

Updated August 9, 2021: Prescott Unified School District has issued COVID waivers to parents, absolving the schools of any responsibility for COVID outbreaks or complications, azfamily reports.

They know it’s wrong,” said one parent.

Following Gov. Doug Ducey’s signing legislation in the budget package banning mask mandates in schools, reactions on either side have ranged from lawsuits to noncompliance, making COVID protection guidelines a grey area.

“We’re trying to help people, we’re trying to communicate better and more generally,” Prescott Unified School District Supt. Joe Howard said.

Prescott parents fear that the waivers imply the schools are not doing as much as they can to protect students.

“It pretty much guarantees that there will be COVID outbreaks there,” said another Prescott parent.

Meanwhile, Brophy Prep, a private school in Phoenix, has issued a mask mandate and urges parents to get their children vaccinated, azfamily reports.

Principal Bob Ryan said, “Although we know that young people are less likely to suffer serious effects from COVID, they can be carriers of the virus and can spread it to vulnerable members of our community,”

Brophy Prep students who are not vaccinated will be subject to bi-weekly COVID tests to prevent outbreaks of the virus.

Confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona rose to 948,245 today up from yesterday’s 946,054 and 18,388 have died from the virus, said the Arizona Department of Health Services.

In Maricopa County, there are 597,401 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 121,770 in Pima County, 57,868 in Pinal County, 37,922 in Yuma County, 26,141 in Mohave County, 21,578 in Yavapai County, 18,893 in Coconino County, 17,526 in Navajo County, 12,530 in Cochise County, 11,871 in Apache County, 8,276 in Santa Cruz County, 7,495 in Gila County, 5,740 in Graham County, 2,603 in La Paz County and 631 in Greenlee County.

Riggs Elementary preschoolers learn through finger painting.

Pickett Elementary students practice critical thinking with coding and robots.

KVOA News comes to Valencia Middle School for a school supply drive.

The University of Arizona assists with climate change research.

Students and families use Intel AI to prepare for the workplace at Mesa Community College.

Sahuarita High School holds tryouts for many of its sports programs.

A reminder for Ajo Unified School District students to get their sports physicals:

Vail School District students enjoy time with therapy dogs.

Come spin the back to school wheel at Morenci Unified School District.

Updated August 5, 2021: A group of pediatricians and family doctors delivered a letter signed by more than 150 Arizona physicians to Gov. Doug Ducey Thursday that praises school districts which have defied the state law banning mask mandates by schools that was included in the budget that Gov. Ducey signed.

The letter asks Gov. Ducey to mandate masks in all K-12 schools in the state.

Several Arizona school districts – Phoenix Union High School District, Phoenix Elementary School District, Osborn Elementary School District, Roosevelt Elementary School District, Tucson Unified School District, Creighton Elementary School District and Washington Elementary School District – have decided to require students, staff and visitors to wear masks on campus in response to high COVID-19 transmission rates in their communities, the more infection delta variant making up a rising number of cases and children under 12 not being approved yet to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

Today, a private school – Brophy College Preparatory – has said it will require students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or get regularly tested for it.

Though the law includes a provision saying the ban on mask mandates is retroactive, it does not officially take effect until September 29.

“The sole legal issue for right now is the law is not in effect,” said Mary O’Grady , attorney for Phoenix Union High School District.

As cases continue to rise in schools, the need for COVID-19 precautions becomes clearer to school leaderss and parents alike, said Toltec Elementary School District Superintendent Denise Rogers.

“We must all work together to reduce the cases and exposure within our community,” Supt. Rogers said.

Campo Verde High School Coyotes enjoy their first day of school.

Troy Schools District administrators prepare for the new school year.

Pueblo Elementary School kindergarteners are starting off strong in their first week of school.

Queen Creek Junior High students prepare for future careers.

Higley Unified School District shares safety tips about school bus transportation.

Welcome back Chaparral High School Firebirds!

Enrolled Ajo Unified School District students can enjoy free meals, and paid meals are available for adults.

Page Unified School District is looking for employees for its Food and Nutrition Department.

Check out Sahuarita High School’s back to school essentials!

Raul H. Castro Middle School welcomes back its students and staff.

Updated August 4, 2021: The Phoenix Union High School District (PXU) appeared in court today at 10 a.m. after Metro Tech High School teacher Douglas Hester filed a lawsuit against the school’s mask mandate.

PXU has moved to dismiss the case and the school governing board will be meeting next on Thursday, August 5, at 6 p.m. The next court hearing is scheduled for August 13 at 9 a.m.

Said Alexander Kolodin, Hester’s attorney, “We’re just asking the court to say, one, the policies and procedures that the Phoenix Union High School District have enacted are unlawful and they can’t do it anymore.”

Governor Doug Ducey’s June 30 law banning schools from enforcing mask mandates has met opposition from both sides. Phoenix Union High School District Superintendent Chad Gestson claimed that the law is not important in the context of protecting students and staff, adding on, “My responsibility is to educate our kids.”

Several other school districts, including Tucson Unified, Phoenix Elementary, Osborn Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary, have also adopted mask mandates in light of surging cases of the highly infectious delta variant.

These decisions come as school districts are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks as students start classes.

This afternoon, Washington Elementary School District‘s Governing Board voted today to to require masks on campus, while allowing families who prefer their children to not wear masks at school an opt-out form that can be presented and signed in person with proof of medical decision making.

Chandler Unified School District’s Rice Elementary discusses their diversity and similarities.

Revisit Flagstaff Unified School District’s 2021-2022 School Year Webinar in case you missed it:

Higley Unified School District welcomes students back to its Early Childhood Development Centers.

Katherine Mecham Barney Elementary School students learn to write their numbers.

Tucson Unified School District offers free counseling to students in partnership with the University of Arizona.

Rincon Vista Middle School students create sidewalk art using math.

Sahuarita Unified School District’s Superintendent has released a new letter to parents:

Morenci High School’s soccer team is searching for volunteer coaches.

Williams Field High School welcomes its new Boys’ Basketball Coach.

Native American history and culture is being taught in more and more public schools.

Updated Aug. 3, 2021: School bus drivers share how to safely drive around school buses and students to keep everyone safe.

Here’s why driving safely around students is so important.

Phoenix Union High School District let families know that masks were strongly suggested and would be mandatory for school before the first day and since then Phoenix Elementary School District and several others have followed suit.

Those mask mandates go against recent legislation prohibiting school districts from requiring masks on campus that go into effect at the end of September that Gov. Ducey signed as part of the budget, and many are waiting to see what will happen next.

Metro Tech High School biology teacher Douglas Hester’s lawsuit over Phoenix Union High School District’s mask mandate will be heard in a Maricopa County Superior courtroom at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Rio Rico High School students are building relationships this first week of school.

Cactus Shadows High School welcomes students back to campus.

Chandler Unified School District students share their relationship building class projects.

Alhambra Elementary School District welcomes 63 new teachers to campuses.

Buckeye Elementary School District honors Kerry Kerr with an award this evening.

Cartwright School District thanks Office Depot for their backpack giveaway for students at John F. Long School.

Here are some ways you can make a difference on campus, courtesy Arizona State University.

Flagstaff Unified School District shares the latest mural at Coconino High School.

What are the three college resources that incoming freshman should use? Find out in U.S. News & World Report’s article.

Earlier coverage:

July 19 to Aug. 2, 2021: Daily schools update: Teens struggle with mental health as school starts

June 20 to July 14, 2021Daily schools update: Arizona lawmakers ban mask requirements in schools

June 14 to June 17, 2021Tempe Union’s board approves comprehensive mental health policy

June 1 to June 11, 2021It’s time to get students enrolled in school for fall & ready for in-person classes

May 17 to May 28, 2021A year after George Floyd’s murder, a look at empathy, equity, what’s changed & what hasn’t

May 10 to May 14, 2021Students ready for graduation ceremonies

May 4 to May 6, 2021Amendment to bill would prohibit teachers from discussing controversial policy & social issues not essential to learning objectives

April 28 to May 3, 2021Thank a teacher during Teacher Appreciation Week for all they do for students

April 21 to April 27, 2021: 3 years after Red for Ed there’s much left to do

April 12 to April 20, 2021: How & why teachers discuss trial with students; Schools keep masks after Gov. rescinds mandate

March 29 to April 9, 2021Children, young teens may be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine before next school year

March 15 to March 26Masks are still required in all schools; Video: Dr. Christ’s news conference today

Feb. 24 to March 11, 2021: COVID-19 aid funds will help AZ students, families & schools

Feb. 11 to Feb. 23U.S. Dept of Ed: Students must take standardized tests, but there’s flexiblity on when & how

Feb. 2 to Feb. 9Video: Supt. Hoffman gives State of Special Education address

Jan. 21 to Feb. 1Black History Mural Month Project to highlight pioneers of the Black community launches in Phoenix

Jan. 10 – Jan 20How students engage with Inauguration Day

Dec. 21, 2020 to Jan 8, 2021Teachers help students deal with attacks on Congress, Capitol

Nov. 30 – Dec. 16Watch it now: Dr. Christ asks people to avoid holiday gatherings with people they do not live with

Nov. 18 – 25COVID-19 cases rise before Thanksgiving adding to school and hospital leaders’ concerns

Nov. 16: More schools return to online learning as COVID-19 cases rise

Nov. 2 – 13: $19 M grant would help schools with teacher development, stipends, reading & math curriculum, summer ed resources and more

Oct. 20 to Oct. 30: AZDHS amends COVID-19 school benchmarks

Oct. 7 – Oct. 19What are teachers doing ahead of elections to support students afterwards

Aug. 25 – Sept. 8: Parents voice concern about online class size; school nurses prepare for students

Aug. 12 – Aug. 24: Students, teachers affected by Zoom outage

July 30 – Aug. 11Parent organizes co-op for learners; group rallies for in-person school days after benchmarks release

July 13- July 30: Teachers prepare for digital learning and back to school

June 29 – July 12Video: Gov. says ‘Goal is to get children back to school when it’s safe;’ Schools lay out learning models

June 29: Video: Gov. delays in-person classes to Aug. 17 due to rise in COVID-19

June 15 – June 29: Video: Gov. pauses re-opening of some businesses as COVID-19 cases rise

June 24: Plan provides more funding, flexible instruction as schools re-open

May 26 – June 12: Increase in COVID-19 cases marks a new daily high

May 20 – 25: AZ Dept. of Ed releases COVID-19 guidance to schools for summer programs, back to school

May 11 – 19: Arizonans consider workplace safety, what back to school will look like amid COVID-19

April 26 – May 10: Stores re-open, COVID-19 testing blitz resumes on Saturday

April 8 – 25You can get tested now if you think you’ve been exposed to COVID-19

March 12 – April 7, 2020Coronavirus response: Cases rise; AZ Day of GivingSHARE THIS STORY